An interview with Opeyemi, a producer of Student Academy Award Winner, and Gold Medalist, Sankofa
Q1. In the early stages of Sankofa’s journey, what was the main goal you wanted to achieve for this documentary?
The main goal we wanted to achieve was to create a film that serves as an amplifying platform to the voices of those around us. As a team we focused on understanding what really mattered to us individually and collectively, ultimately deciding to set Sankofa in both Ghana and Philadelphia. This allowed us to delve into why displaying prevalent social justice issues mattered, not just for our own lives and for those of the communities we live in, but for people all around the world.
Q2. How does it feel to be the first Villanova University film to have won a Student Academy Award and receive the gold medal?
It is so surreal! When we first started production, no one ever imagined Sankofa would be where it is in this amount of time. Our main focus was and continues to be, to tell a story that does justice to all the people we met and connected with both in Ghana and the United States, the dialogues that happened, the experiences we had and to the lives of those you would typically hear about. For Sankofa to be recognized with this achievement and to be the first film in Villanova University’s history to do so, further emphasizes the impact it has on those who have watched it.
3. Why did you choose to focus on issues of mental slavery in Sankofa?
We chose to focus on this topic because it truly encapsulates the not-so-commonly-known dynamic and historic relationship between Ghana and the U.S., while also serving as an explanation for why and how societies have formed and functioned in the ways that they have. Coming from the U.S. and witnessing Black Lives Matter movements and police killings, we wanted to understand why things have escalated as such. While in Ghana, our team visited slave castles and spoke with locals and government officials to better understand the country’s history before and after the Atlantic Slave trade. Our understanding of these two parts led us to the idea of mental slavery.
4. How has the Waterhouse Family Institute (WFI) helped make the production of Sankofa possible?
The WFI has given us an abundance of support in various forms for our production. The WFI was an amazing resource for us in terms of spreading the word about our trip and team as well as providing funds for production, materials and equipment. We are grateful for this wonderful relationship between Villanova and the WFI that continues to grow over the years.
5. How does your film embody the mission of the Waterhouse Family Institute?
Sankofa embodies the mission of the WFI through its creative platform of storytelling. While sharing the lives of our two activists Marcquis and Godsway, we worked to include historical information about Ghana and the U.S., using visuals and archival footage to emphasize the message, while also having a poetic narration throughout the film. WFI promotes the use of communication as a means to building a relationship with ourselves, others and the world around us. I believe with Sankofa that is the goal- we want anyone watching our film to challenge what they know or what others believe and build new foundations and processes in order for everyone to better understand each other and the world we live in.
6. What have you learned throughout this exciting journey?
I’ve learned to let go of myself and live in the moment. Traveling abroad and meeting and connecting with people from different backgrounds has taught me to see the world from a new perspective. This journey has had its ups and downs, which is to be expected with any project. But I, and I believe I speak for my team too, have learned that you just have to be open about what life has to offer during the good and bad times.
7. Do you have plans to produce new films in the near future?
As of right now, Riptide Pictures, our production company, is focusing on continuing to spread Sankofa to as many people as we can. Our team is dispersed in various places so production would take more planning, but who knows what the future holds!
JOIN US IN CONGRATULATING THESE AMAZING YOUNG FILMMAKERS ON THEIR INCREDIBLE ACHIEVEMENT! THE WFI IS SO PROUD OF THEM, AND OF SANKOFA!